Oh man, the watch and the company we are taking a look today is probably my favourite company the last years. I wanted to review their watches since I started following them on Instagram when they only just had concept drawing and I waited for over a year to get my hands on this one and finally, Baltic Watches sent me one for a review. Also, that attracted me to this brand was the name “Baltic” as I come from Latvia which is one of the three countries in the Baltic States.
Baltic Watches is a company from France (don’t be fooled by the Baltic name – it is not geographically relevant, but related to the design purity of the brand). The company was created by a vintage watch enthusiast and collector who was inspired by these old step case design and decided to make his own watch company. They started their company through Kickstarter and they got funded by whopping 1,044 backers who pledged €514,806 which is a lot for a company that is new to the market. Probably one of the reasons for their success is great marketing, as they were everywhere and even an enthusiast who was only collecting luxury watches knew about them. Their Instagram was also pretty good, they were interacting with followers and sharing everything with them, talking to them, sometimes even letting vote for some strap/bracelet ideas. Also, their photos of their watches were stunning, I really suggest you check their Instagram page. I also have to mention that all the watches are assembled by hand in Besancon, France, so each watch is checked and tested by their highly skilled watch specialists.
Etienne Malec, the founder of Baltic Watches has a passion for automatic watches. Like many watch enthusiasts, he inherited this passion from his father. For his first watches, he chooses the city of Besancon (France) as the place where to assemble them. This city began to manufacture watches after the French revolution. At that time, French authorities wanted to stop the importation of foreign watches and wanted to produce them 100% in France. Baltic Watches opted to work with a family of watchmakers involved in the watch industry for four generations. For me, this gives a certain romanticism to the Baltic watches. I could say the same for the visual aspect of the watches as well as the Baltic brand name.
The watch that Baltic Watches sent me is the Bicompax 001 with black gilt dial. This was probably one of the most exciting packages to wait for. When I got the package I ripped of the cardboard and was greeted with a very nice and simple outer bo with Baltic watches logo in gold colour. Inside there was a hard clamshell box with a cork material on the lid, reminds me of those old Patek Philippe boxes for the Nautilus. Really great work. Opening the box, you will also see that vintage inspiration by how the watch sits in the bo, really reminds me one of those old jewellery boxes my grandma had. Immediately I took out the watch and inspected it and I was stunned by the looks. The first impressions were that it wears very small and it is probably the smallest chronograph I have ever had, but I really like it.
The case of the Bicompax is made of 316L stainless steel. The machine work is really good. On the case, you will find two types of finishing: satin brushed and polished. The finishing is done really well and you can’t see any imperfections or anything. The case is very small, slim and elegant like most of the watches from the 40s. The case diameter is 38mm, the thickness is 12,8mm and from lug to lug it measures at 47mm. The case is small and wears just so good. In the recent year, I have started to like smaller watches and the bigger ones that sit in my watch box gets less and less wear time than this or any other small watch I have. The Bicompax has “stepped” case design (from the angle that the bezel makes with the case) that we can find in many chronographs of the 1940s, such as some Longines 13-ZN. Also in line with the standards of the time, the 38mm size underscores how groundbreaking those chronographs with sharp lines must have looked at a time when most wristwatches had diameters below 34mm. Another detail that I noticed and it justs shows ho much attention and work went into creating this watch are the drilled lugs. Most of the companies forget that there is such option, but vintage watches mostly has this feature and it just makes the strap change a bit easier and you can’t scratch the watch so easily with the strap removal tool. On the right side of the case we have two pump pushers for the start and stop function for the chronograph and a push-pull crown with an engraved “B” for Baltic Watches on the side. The pushers have a really great feel to them when you push them and the crown, despite its relatively small size works and grips just fine. My version comes with a solid screw in case back, but for extra 30€ you can get an exhibition case back to see the stunning Sea-gull chronograph movement. The water resistance is 5ATM or 50M, but I wouldn’t put it near water as it doesn’t have screw in chronograph pushers or screw in crown and underwater you can accidentally push the pusher and water will flood the movement. So be careful! On top of the case sits a high-domed Hesalite glass which goes with the whole 40s inspired watch.
The black gilt dial is really cool looking and has that vintage spirit. The dial itself follows the same vintage codes, with minimal text and a neat minute track. The registers of the chronograph also display the cross-hair configuration and the sun-ray finishing that were the rage at the time. This vintage vibe did not only impact the design, as it also played a key role in choosing the movements – manual-winding for the chronograph, of course. The Baltic logo branding is not overdone, the gold Bicompax/Manuel lines bring some detail to the dial – if we want to be really nitpicky here, the Baltic chronograph is more a Compax than a Bi-Compax since its sub-registers offer only one complication, but nevertheless it isn’t important as the watch looks stunning anyways and who cares about the right terminology? The dial overall is very easy to read, and it is always fun to play with those chronograph hands while you are waiting in line or just sitting bored.
The movement inside the Bicompax is the Sea-Gull ST1901. You can read my article about the history behind this movement here! The ST1901 is a flyback, column wheel chronograph movement. The movement is really good in my opinion. This is a hand-wound movement so you will need to wind it time by time. The power reserve is about 40 hours. The winding and time setting is nice and smooth and it doesn’t feel like Chinese movement at all. I really don’t get it why many brands use the Seiko Mecha-quartz when they could’ve used this instead. The ST19 is also very discussed on forums as being very good and reliable for the low price. Many people have been using these movements for many years and they still run well. When it comes to precision, mine example is running at +12 to +13 seconds, but I have seen these movements run +5 seconds a day, so it comes regulation of the movement. Another thing I really like about this project is its transparency: the calibre chosen for this watch was clearly mentioned, as was the Asian provenance of the case. They don’t hide it, but embrace it!
The strap that came with the watch is a brown French calf leather strap with contrasting white vintage style stitching. The soft beige underlining is very smooth to touch and makes the wearing experience comfortable. The leather is very soft and supple, it will wear in right as you put it first time on your wrist. The square tang-style buckle is made of 316L stainless steel and has engraved Baltic logo on the front. The strap has a nice taper from 20mm to 18mm so to change the strap for something different will be easy as 20mm is a common strap width.
Overall I really like this watch and it was more than I hoped it to be. And the price considering how much work and passion was involved in making this watch, it is cheap. You get a really well executed, vintage-inspired watch with a great quality. You get a flyback, column wheel, manual chronograph movement that is made by Sea-Gull (A Chinese watch manufacturer), but in reality, it is just the same Venus 175 movement (To know more about the story behind this movement, read my article). Anycase the watch is really great looking and thank you Baltic Watches for a chance to take a look at this watch. I also have to mention that Baltic Watches are coming out with all new vintage inspired dive watch which also looks stunning! Check it out!
38 x 47mm